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65th Gent-Wevelgem - 1.HC
Belgium, April 9, 2003
By Jeff Jones
Andreas Klier (Telekom) has become the first German to win Gent-Wevelgem in its 69 year history, winning a five man sprint from Henk Vogels (Navigators) and Tom Boonen (Quick.Step). The Belgian based Telekom rider helped create the final selection with 11 km to go, attacking a 12 man group that had survived the Kemmelberg. The leaders had to chase down Quick.Step's Servais Knaven, who'd attacked on his own, and caught him in the streets of Wevelgem with 2 km to go. In the sprint, Klier proved to be too strong for Vogels and Boonen, the latter crashing into a photographer moments after crossing the line after being nudged by Vogels, however he was not seriously hurt.
Klier has a German father and Swedish mother, and trains with Peter Van Petegem. His first pro victory was in the GP Jef Scherens Leuven last year. "I have been practising to win this race for five years now!" a delighted Klier said at the finish. "Last year exactly the same thing happened in the same place. I knew it was going to be the same. It's just there was a bigger group now and there was more wind. But I felt better too. I knew I had to attack to get rid of the Quick.Step guys. Knaven is very strong on the flat."
"I was fairly sure I was going to win today. I had such good legs. The team management has been waiting for a win from me. I won my race and I'll aim for the Scheldeprijs now, let Paris Roubaix be played by the big guys; like Museeuw."
Henk Vogels was also strong all day, the Western Australian relishing the windy conditions that are a hallmark of this race. But he had no answer to the German's sprint. "Klier was very fast," said Vogels. "He was strong in the last 15km. He did a lot of work too. I was a bit afraid of Boonen, but I had to fear Klier more. I wanted to win today, but got beaten by a very strong Klier. My team [Navigators] has been riding very well lately, twice second and a win in the last three races."
Third placed Tom Boonen was a disappointed by his result, and frustrated by his collision with the photographer after he had crossed the line. "I couldn't avoid the photographer," said the Belgian. "I was just sprinting on my line. Maybe if they made the passage on the finish line even narrower, I would have hit the photographer even better!"
"I was nervous of course, I felt I was in the right position to win today. Klier had better legs today, I just didn't have the fresh legs he still had, that's all. I felt strong today, but it was a power sprint."
Tom Boonen's crash wasn't the only incident in this fastest ever edition of the race (45.502 km/h). After crossing the line in the third group, World Champion Mario Cipollini (Domina Vacanze) was immediately disqualified by the commissaires and fined 200 Swiss francs for throwing two water bottles at a BWB representative, when the latter tried to pass him with 37 km to go. At that stage, Cipollini was off the back of the leading group after a crash, and talking to his team director in the car. He heard the beep of the horn from the motorcycle behind, looked around angrily, and threw two bottles at the moto rider as he went past.
"Cipollini threw two drink bottles at me. I don't know what caused him to do that," the BWB representative told Belgian TV afterwards. "He was waiting for the team car and I was waiting too, I couldn't do anything else but wait... maybe he was angry at me because I waited, maybe he thought that was hindering him. The result was that he got mad. I felt the something hitting me on my back and didn't know what happened, and then another one."
"For me personally it's only a small incident. But a water bottle thrown at that speed is very dangerous. He was very nervous, because of what happened earlier in the race."
Cipollini responded, "You have to put yourself in my position. I was very angry. I had just fallen and was trying to catch the leading group and all I could hear was this honking behind me. When he overtook me I wasn't thinking."
When Cipollini did regain two riders who were just in front of him, Jaan Kirsipuu and Leon van Bon, he had to swerve to avoid another motorcycle, that had crashed just in front of them!
Bettini and Dierckxsens crash out
Earlier in the race, while the peloton was racing at full speed towards the coast, a crash took out Paolo Bettini (Quick.Step) and Ludo Dierckxsens (Landbouwkrediet). Both riders were taken to hospital for examination, and it was found that Dierckxsens had broken his collarbone, while Bettini had suffered muscle contusions and a sprained ligament in his left shoulder. Dierckxsens will certainly be out for several weeks now, and his unlucky spring season is over. Bettini's prognostic is a little better, but this crash will surely hurt his chances in the upcoming World Cups.
"I was lucky," said Bettini. "Even if the shoulder aches, the fall could have been even worse. Now I'll have to rest for some days. In the next days I´ll know if I can re-enter for the Amstel Gold Race."
How it unfolded
164 riders left the new starting place in Deinze's Grote Markt in bright sunshine with some 8,000 spectators cheering them on their way. With a strong easterly breeze blowing behind them for most of the way, the average speed was predictably high. The crash involving Bettini and Dierckxsens occurred at 53 km, just before Oostende on a wide, but wind-blown road.
As the peloton hit the crosswinds along the coast, the inevitable splits occurred, with Quick.Step-Davitamon riding hard tempo at the front to shatter the peloton. 26 riders survived: Cipollini, Lombardi, Ongarato (Domina Vacanze), Cancellara, Zanotti (Fassa), Van Heeswijk (USPS-Berry Floor), Eeckhout, Van Bon, Vierhouten (Lotto-Domo), Hayman (Rabobank), Boonen, Cretskens, Knaven, Kasheckhin, Museeuw (Quick.Step), Kirsipuu, Flickinger (Ag2r), Klier, Hondo, Kopp (Telekom), Steels (Landbouwkrediet), Hammond (Palmans), Grishkine, Power, Vogels (Navigators), and Belohvosciks (Marlux). The chase was led by the Rabobank and Cofidis teams, who had all but missed the move and were paying for it.
Quick.Step's Andrei Kasheckhin was particularly strong, driving the break through Poperinge with a 43 second lead to the chasers. The group reached the hills (Zwarteberg, Rodeberg, Monteberg and Kemmelberg) with its lead intact, and there was no intention of slowing down as Klier, Vogels and Museeuw hammered up the steep cobbles of the Kemmelberg, with 62 km left to travel. Several riders had to let go on this first ascent, including Tom Steels, who eventually finished 25th.
Down the other side and around the next short lap, and the pace continued to be high with no riders in the break willing to let the peloton catch them, despite the fairly ominous presence of Cipollini and the other two sprinters Hondo and Kirsipuu. Behind them, Oscar Freire and Nico Mattan tried in vain to close the gap, but it gradually began to increase to over a minute, and the leaders clearly weren't coming back.
On the second ascent of the Kemmel with 40 km to go, the next selection was made, with Museeuw, Klier and Boonen leading over the top with nine others managing to hold on. Cipollini was left chasing with Hondo, while Kirsipuu was even further off the back. No-one crashed on the feared cobbled descent, but Cipollini did come to grief on a corner right at the bottom. He may well have closed the gap to the leaders had it not been for that incident, and his frustration was plain to see later on.
Strangely his teammates Lombardi and Ongarato didn't see the point of waiting for Cipo to try and tow him back on. Their victory chances might have been greater otherwise. The rest of the riders in the lead group were: Tom Boonen, Servais Knaven, Johan Museeuw (Quick.Step), Andreas Klier (Telekom), Fabian Cancellara (Fassa), Max Van Heeswijk (USPS-Berry Floor), Mathew Hayman (Rabobank), Henk Vogels (Navigators), Raivis Belohvosciks (Marlux) and Roger Hammond (Palmans).
After his crash, Cipollini caught back onto Kirsipuu and Van Bon, and that's when the two motorcycle incidents occurred. Fortunately there were no injuries other than a case of wounded pride, but it was clear at that stage that Cipo, Van Bon and Kirsipuu were not coming back to the leaders. In the end they were caught by Hondo's group, which narrowed the gap to 34 seconds with 18 km to go, but then sat up after Museeuw and Klier lifted the pace in the front group.
The battle for victory was played out among the front 12 riders, with attack after attack going until Servais Knaven (Quick.Step) took off with 11 km to go and got a 100m lead. He was chased by Klier, Vogels, Ongarato and Boonen, although the latter did not have to work with his teammate in front. Knaven, using his time trial experience, powered along 10 seconds in front of the chasers over the final 10 kilometres, but they would not give in and gradually closed the gap to the Dutchman.
Knaven was caught with 2 km to go, but still had the energy to lead out the sprint for Tom Boonen. It didn't matter though, as Andreas Klier came around to take a clear win, with Henk Vogels and Tom Boonen going shoulder to shoulder for second. Vogels got it, and practically piloted Boonen into a finish line photographer, who was bowled over by the big Belgian. Boonen was winded, but otherwise unhurt, and will be a valuable part of the Quick.Step team in this Sunday's Paris-Roubaix.
Thus ended the fastest ever and incident filled 65th Gent-Wevelgem. The next appointment for many of these riders is Paris-Roubaix this Sunday, and with Museeuw's form at the moment, the Lion of Flanders looks to be the favourite for that one.
Images by Jeff Tse/www.jefftse.com/cycling
Images by Fotoreporter Sirotti
Images by AFP Photo
Images by Yuzuru Sunada/www.yuzurusunada.com
Images by Lucy Power/Cyclingnews.com
Images by Jeff Jones/Cyclingnews.com
1 Andreas Klier (Ger) Team Telekom 4.29.00 (45.502 km/h) 2 Henk Vogels (Aus) Navigators Cycling Team 3 Tom Boonen (Bel) Quick.Step-Davitamon 4 Alberto Ongarato (Ita) Domina Vacanze-Elitron 0.09 5 Servais Knaven (Ned) Quick.Step-Davitamon 0.18 6 Raivis Belohvosciks (Lat) Marlux-Wincor Nixdorf 0.43 7 Johan Museeuw (Bel) Quick.Step-Davitamon 1.07 8 Roger Hammond (GBr) Palmans-Collstrop 9 Max Van Heeswijk (Ned) US Postal presented by Berry Floor 10 Mathew Hayman (Aus) Rabobank 11 Fabian Cancellara (Swi) Fassa Bortolo 12 Giovanni Lombardi (Ita) Domina Vacanze-Elitron 13 Oleg Grishkine (Rus) Navigators Cycling Team 3.58 14 Danilo Hondo (Ger) Team Telekom 3.59 15 Marco Zanotti (Ita) Fassa Bortolo 16 Jaan Kirsipuu (Est) Ag2r-Prevoyance 17 Nico Eeckhout (Bel) Lotto-Domo 18 Wilfried Cretskens (Bel) Quick.Step-Davitamon 19 Andy Flickinger (Fra) Ag2r-Prevoyance 20 Andrey Kashechkin (Kaz) Quick.Step-Davitamon 4.00 21 Aart Vierhouten (Ned) Lotto-Domo 4.01 22 Leon Van Bon (Ned) Lotto-Domo 5.20 23 Juan Antonio Flecha (Spa) iBanesto.com 6.08 24 Staf Scheirlinckx (Bel) Flanders-IteamNova.com 6.11 25 Tom Steels (Bel) Landbouwkrediet-Colnago 6.16 26 Robbie McEwen (Aus) Lotto-Domo 27 David Kopp (Ger) Team Telekom 28 Stefan Van Dijk (Ned) Lotto-Domo 29 Steven De Jongh (Ned) Rabobank 30 Rudi Kemna (Ned) BankGiroLoterij Cycling Team 31 Ludovic Capelle (Bel) Landbouwkrediet-Colnago 32 Viatcheslav Ekimov (Rus) US Postal presented by Berry Floor 33 Ciaran Power (Irl) Navigators Cycling Team 34 Nico Mattan (Bel) Cofidis-Le Crédit par Téléphone 35 Serguei Ivanov (Rus) Fassa Bortolo 36 Olaf Pollack (Ger) Gerolsteiner 37 Julian Dean (NZl) Team CSC 38 Oscar Freire Gomez (Spa) Rabobank 39 Bram Tankink (Ned) Quick.Step-Davitamon 40 José Gutierrez (Spa) iBanesto.com 41 Bert Scheirlinckx (Bel) Flanders-IteamNova.com 42 Karsten Kroon (Ned) Rabobank 43 Chris Peers (Bel) Cofidis-Le Crédit par Téléphone 44 José Vicente Garcia Acosta (Spa) iBanesto.com 46 Andrea Tafi (Ita) Team CSC 47 Marc Wauters (Bel) Rabobank 48 Lorenzo Bernucci (Ita) Landbouwkrediet-Colnago 49 Jan Boven (Ned) Rabobank 6.30 DSQ Mario Cipollini (Ita) Domina Vacanze-Elitron Starters: 164 Classified: 49